Top Tips for Writing Your First Grant
Writing a grant for the first time can be a daunting process. The most important thing to remember is that grant writing is a skill that will take time and effort to cultivate. Once you hone your skills, the rewards of finding the right funding to execute your vision will be well worth it.
This is the first blog in our new series, Grant Writing for Beginners. The series will cover all the stages of preparing a grant proposal from writing a Letter of Inquiry to submitting a proposal. To start off the series, here are some general tips for beginners to keep in mind:
Start With What You Know
You may not be an expert in grant writing, but you are certainly knowledgeable about your field and your school or organization’s capabilities. When you first begin to develop ideas for funding, consider your strengths, as well as your school’s strengths and mission. You’ll want to eventually build your proposal around these strengths.
Get Your Ducks in a Row
Now that you have the germ of an idea, it’s time to nail down the specifics of your proposal. Consider who your target audience will be, what compelling need you will address, and why your organization is in a unique position to address that need. Also think about how much funding you’ll be seeking, as this will be helpful when sorting through different grant possibilities. For more questions to ask before seeking funding, read Six Questions to Ask Before Seeking Funding.
Spend Time Finding Your Perfect Match
Thoroughly research potential funders before making the effort to submit an application. This will save you both time and energy down the road and increase your chances of a successful application. Read through the foundation’s entire website, especially the grant guidelines and mission statement. If the foundation lists previously funded projects, make sure to look into them. If they’re not listed, try searching for their Form 990. Here’s a brief guide to Form 990s if you’re unfamiliar with them. This will give you an idea of how likely you are to be funded and what areas may need to be improved upon or emphasized in your proposal. Are You the One?: Evaluating Potential Funders goes into greater detail on assessing possible funders.
Get Your Feet Wet
Since this is your first grant proposal, consider reading through successful grant proposals. Sometimes foundations will post examples of funded proposals on their websites. You can also attend grant-writing workshops or even volunteer to review grant applications to get a sense of what the review process is like, what grants others are writing, and what a good and bad proposal look like.
Tailor Your Proposals
Submitting the same proposal to every potential funder won’t get you very far. Even if it’s for the same project, every proposal should be tailored to each foundation’s specific interests and funding criteria.
Find Good Reviewers
A second pair of eyes is always a good thing. Have someone look over your proposal who is not involved in your project. Listen to the questions and issues they bring up carefully. Remember that the funder who reads your proposal will have no prior knowledge of your project and may also not be an expert in your field. Try having someone outside of your field read your proposal, as they will be able to point out any use of jargon that funders may not understand.
Keep On Keeping On
When you win your first grant, celebrate heartily and then keep going. Use that momentum to start building your next successful grant. If and when you get rejected, don’t give up just yet. Ask for feedback from the funder (unless the funder specifically asks applicants not to) and apply that to your next proposal. For more tips on how to handle rejection, check out What To Do After Your Proposal Is Rejected.
Remember that this is only the beginning of your funding journey. There will be many new things to learn and exciting twists in the road ahead. Stay tuned for more from our Grant Writing for Beginners series. Next time we will dive into writing a Letter of Inquiry.